The Feldenkrais Method is a type of exercise therapy that improves body movement and posture. It is most commonly practiced by those who experience chronic body pains including pain in the back, shoulder, and neck. The method was conceived by Moshé Feldenkrais, an Israeli engineer who believed that human functioning can be improved by increasing self-awareness. Slow, mindful movements are used to achieve this.
Who Can Benefit From The Feldenkrais Method?
If you are someone who suffers from chronic pain, you know that you would try just about anything to get rid of the nagging pain. Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks.1
The Feldenkrais Method has gained popularity over the last few years because it has helped many in relieving pain and strengthening muscles and joints.2 Experts in the field claim that the Feldenkrais Method can reduce almost any muscular pain considerably with enough practice. It is also believed to benefit those with a number of medical conditions (including people with multiple sclerosis and children with autism). Even handicapped individuals who cannot partake in regular exercises can try and benefit from the Feldenkrais Method.
How Does The Feldenkrais Method Work?
Increasing self-awareness is the main change that the Feldenkrais Method tries to bring about in a student. The trainers help you understand your habits better and develop new ways of movement. Practicing this alternative therapy over a period of time is said to
1. Relieves Muscular Tension And Pain
You develop muscular tension when you are in the habit of using more muscular effort than you need to. Or it may be due to your tendency to contract your muscles even when you are not using them. When these unconscious habits are unchanged over a long period of time, it may cause chronic, muscular pain. It could also cause fatigue, restricted movement, and depression. While practicing the Feldenkrais method, you will learn techniques used to relieve muscular tension and also to relax your muscles whenever you want.
2. Increases Flexibility
In order to move comfortably and have a wide range of motion, your body needs to be flexible. Being flexible also aids in maintaining healthy joints and muscles. Steps taken towards an increased self-awareness will help you realize the neuromuscular habits of tension and stiffness that are damaging to the body. Once you realize what you are doing wrong, you can begin to change your habits. In effect, you will find a dramatic increase in flexibility and general health.
3. Speeds Up Recovery Time After An Injury
Some injuries leave you in pain or discomfort for months or even years. This may be because you unconsciously develop movement habits or an alternative posture that does not irritate the injured area. Even after the pain has gone you may continue with these habits which may cause muscular discomfort or chronic misalignment over time. The Feldenkrais Method will help you eliminate old unhealthy habits and replace them with better movements and postures. The healing process can be accelerated by stimulating your circulation, reducing inflammation, and by relaxing your muscles.
4. Reduces The Effects Of Aging
Most people accept that their reduced flexibility, poor posture, and body pain are unavoidable problems they have to face with old age, but this is not necessarily true. No matter what your age, these lessons can help improve your posture, flexibility, and range of motion.
5. Improves The Quality Of Body Movement
Through increased self-awareness, you will experience greater accuracy, balance, and coordination while performing all of your physical activities. You will also gain more speed and power while exerting yourself physically. The new awareness of a change in movement and sense will also improve your general mood as well.
What Does A Typical Session Involve?
Each lesson of the Feldenkrais Method takes around 45 to 60 minutes. During the lesson, the student is made to try out several variations of the original movement. While some of the variations make the original movement easier (synergistic patterns), others make the movement more difficult (constraints). Exposing these movement variations creates a potential for new learning. Students also come to realize how their usual patterns of movement are and what they are doing wrong like holding the breath, rushing, applying excessive force, or clenching teeth.
New, more efficient patterns of movement are introduced using slow, gentle, repeated movements because it is believed that slow movements are necessary for a new habit to form and feel normal.
Most of these lessons explore everyday actions like getting up from a chair, reaching, turning, walking and bending.
There are over 1,000 distinct Feldenkrais lessons available. Since most of these lessons are simple, it is particularly useful and possible for those with movement challenge as well.
One movement pattern is usually chosen and studied in a lesson. During a lesson, a student is made to become aware of their own way of doing a certain movement. Take for example the act of bending forward. They are made to observe the quality of their movement and how much of their skeleton is involved in the movement.
Usually, Feldenkrais teachers avoid giving instructions for “correct” ways of moving but encourage self-discovery. That’s why there are no mirrors, no models to imitate and very few rights and wrongs. Reducing effort, slowing down, and directing attention internally is encouraged among students. Corrections are said to happen spontaneously in this manner.
By expanding your perception and increasing awareness, you will become more aware of your habits and tensions and develop new ways of moving. By increasing sensitivity, the Feldenkrais Method assists you to live your life more fully, efficiently, and comfortably.
Feldenkrais Lessons Can Be Divided Into Two Separate Formats
• Awareness Through Movement (ATM): Verbal instructions of the teacher is followed by an individual or a group of students. Students learn by paying attention to the movement sequences and doing as told.
• Functional Integration (FI): This method involves a hands-on approach where the teacher instructs not with verbal directions but with passive movements and skilled manipulation. The classes are one-on-one and the class will be tailored to the client’s particular needs.
Even though there are many people who swear by the many benefits of the practice, it has to be noted that there is no medical evidence of the benefits of the Feldenkrais. However, there is said to be no serious risks associated with trying it. So if you or a loved one have tried just about every trick in the book to rid yourself of that chronic body pain, why not give the Feldenkrais method a shot?